Thursday, December 19, 2019

Thumpasaurus on Tour Fall 2019

Thumpasaurus on Tour Fall 2019

The Space Barn Has Landed

Logan, Lucas, Henry W, Nate, Paul, Henry S
(not shown, Ben: projectionist)

I’m having a new experience.  Thumpasaurus, a funk punk band from Los Angeles that counts my son as a member, has allowed me to accompany them, selling merchandise (t-shirts and albums) on the Pacific Northwest leg of their tour from Missoula, Montana to San Diego, California (shows in Missoula, Seattle, Portland, Chico, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego).  From there they will head east through the Southwest to Texas.  I’ve always enjoyed tour memoirs and I saw this as an opportunity to observe one firsthand.  Your typical memoir of yesteryear was written by a superstar headliner for drama.  This one will cover the true “Opening Band Experience,” one I can’t say I’ve seen in print before.  The headlining band on this tour is Too Many Zooz, a trio famous for busking in the NYC subways, their performance videos and their masterful use of classical instruments in a modern popular music context.  The latter is one thing the two bands have in common and partly why they were considered a good combination for a tour.

To say they love what they do is an understatement.  They would have to; a tour is serious work for any band, mental and physical.  As a band gains notoriety they receive more services and support, but they are also under more pressure to continually deliver.  As an opening band, there is much more paying of dues, much legwork to get them to the main event, night after night.  In this case, that means renting a large van and driving the band, gear and merchandise cross country, organizing room and board, and managing a strict schedule on a very tight budget.  More often than not, they are couch-surfing, staying with family and friends to save money.  It is a young person’s game.

The schedule is punishing.  We had two days to get to Missoula.  The first day saw us driving 13 hours from the San Francisco Bay Area to Hermiston, Oregon on our way to Missoula, Montana (including a truly terrifying, freak snowstorm in a rural, unlit section of the two-lane road that snakes through the River Gorge and added more than two and a half hours to our ETA at the end of the drive).  The drive through Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Montana was beautiful and such a contrast to our western home due to the aforementioned, untimely snow storm in late September.  The second day was a six-hour drive to Missoula and included the first performance of the tour on a day that wouldn’t end before midnight.  The next morning’s departure time is 6:00 am.  It goes on and on like this for 20 shows, this tour alone.  On this night in Missoula, the entire band and I share an airbnb guesthouse close to town, which is lovely; we were able to check in before sound check which is optimal.  (On our return after the show, we see a doe and her fawn walking the snowy neighborhood streets.)

We are at the Top Hat in Missoula and it’s sound check time.  That usually happens a couple hours before showtime.  Though they have done headlining tours, on this tour Thumpasaurus is the opening band.  In this case, Zooz will have the earlier sound check, remove their gear from the stage and take their dinner break.  The opening band soundchecks afterwards and leaves their gear onstage, “striking” it directly after their performance so the headlining band’s gear can be installed.  It’s an opportunity for me to get the lay of the land.  Every venue is different, every stage, merchandise area, house manager, sound man, traffic pattern and parking spot.  It’s time to set up merchandise, eat and relax just a bit before the performance.  There will be no peace after Doors (meaning: the venue is now open).

The Top Hat is billed as a “polished live music venue with a vintage vibe featuring upmarket pub fare and a large dance floor.”  I’ll agree with that and add this is as nice a venue as I’ve ever seen with the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  This room boasts a large dance floor, surrounded by wooden booths and tables, overlooked by an impressive piece of carpentry, a huge, vintage (ca. 1900), hand-carved bar brought from Wisconsin at great expense.  They couldn’t have been more accommodating and were very appreciative that the bands took the long trip.  This is a different genre for this venue, used to seeing local country and bluegrass acts, and they definitely showed the love.  Most nights end with a long line of people waiting to buy merchandise, meet and take pictures with the band and tonight is no exception.

Day three saw us driving out of Missoula at 6:00 am, making the seven-hour drive through Spokane on our way to Seattle, Washington and the 1000-seat Neptune Theater.  This is a totally different venue from the Top Hat.  This tour is comprised of mostly all-ages, general admission shows at venues that can support the extra oversight required (underage crowds must be sequestered).  At the Neptune Theater, the balcony upstairs is a great place for parents and kids, while a standing-room-only dance floor downstairs is great for those who want to dance or get closer to the stage.  There is a devoted merchandise area and very kind and helpful staff.  The merchandise booth is busy after their last song.  Most of these are new fans, which we love, but we are starting to see repeat customers out of town, and that is very exciting.  People are starting to travel to see these bands in different cities as part of a vacation and I think it’s amazing.  We saw a honeymooning couple from Europe at two shows.  This was the biggest show the band had ever played and we stayed until well past midnight.  Tonight in Seattle, we are staying in an interesting place: a 1909 guesthouse in a “nature preserve” with huge picture windows and the original crumbling staircase crawling through a mess of foliage.

Day four, a well-deserved day off.  We walked in the gorgeous Ravenna Park, then made the easy three-hour drive to Portland in the afternoon.  After checking into our gorgeous airbnb (a not-so-tiny- house with spectacular carpentry and design), we walked the neighborhood of restored 1900s homes, ate amazing food and rested.  Day five’s show is at McMeniman’s Crystal Ballroom, a gorgeous performance space in a building dating to 1914, a place of many different lives, filled with art and music history.  Jimi Hendrix, a hired gun at the time, was kicked off Little Richard’s band in this room.  This is just one of the many crazy, but true stories I heard during my private building tour with a very friendly staff member.  The history here is as deep and wide as the collection of show posters will attest.  This show is especially fun; there’s a special energy whenever the boys play on a famous stage.  And this room’s dance floor is spring-loaded, making everyone just a little less encumbered by gravity, living for “Dance Like it’s Your Life.”  Add to that, the band projectionist is using the house projection system instead of setting up the portable screen, making the signature video slideshow look more amazing than usual.  We all leave there happy.  
Day six, a day off for the tour, but not for Thump.  We return to the house at 1:00 am and are out at 7:30 for our eight-hour drive to Chico (allowing for a completely-worth-it, hour-long lunch with my BFF Julie in Ashland, OR).  Thumpasaurus is taking advantage of driving past this town to do a headlining show at the unique venue, Lost on Main.  This place is a huge, multi-room pool hall, bar and event space, with stage and dance floor, filled with funky decorations, appealing equally to the local college-aged crowd and seniors alike.  Their local band, Smokey the Groove was lots of fun.  And, uniquely, this venue has an associated house in town, set up for bands to stay the night, which is much appreciated.

Day seven saw us leaving Chico at 9:00 am for Berkeley, California, an easy three-hour drive.  The Cornerstone Craft Beer and Live Music venue is on Shattuck in the heart of downtown Berkeley.  It  has a modern brew-pub atmosphere with sleek, minimalist furniture and a patio.  Through double doors in the back, you find the live music venue, a large dance floor with an upstairs, wraparound  balcony with seating.  This is one of my favorite shows.  The opening band’s green room is an extension of the upstairs balcony overlooking the stage: best seats in the house.  Plus, my nephew Gavin is here and I love seeing him and his friends from UC Berkeley.  Back in our hometown, we get to sleep in our own beds for a couple nights.

Day eight had us driving two hours to Santa Cruz and the Catalyst Club.  The Catalyst is a large venue with two stages, four bars and a restaurant.  It is an older establishment so the stage and lights are pretty simple, no green rooms, but it highlights the group’s spare appearance tonight (a quartet with no projections, as our projectionist had an emergency).  In this venue, the crowd is leaning heavily toward college-age.  It reminds me of their origin, when an earlier version of Thumpasaurus was called Adventure Band and the boys were still in school.

Day nine, a day off for the tour, but not for Logan, who attends rehearsal in Orinda on Saturday before the Santa Cruz Thump show for a performance with the Kyle Athayde Dance Party on Sunday night in Alamo, CA.  Growing no moss...

Day 10, an actual day off to do laundry and repack for the next leg of the journey.

Day 11, driving out of NorCal again, this time on our way to Santa Barbara and the SOhO Restaurant and Music Venue.  This venue is unexpectedly located on State Street in an upstairs area of a courtyard full of daytime businesses.  The bar and food are great and though this place is smaller, the show is crowded and fun.  Today is a big day overall as we previously decided to drive to Los Angeles after the Santa Barbara show arriving about 2:00 am.

Day 12, we get to sleep in.  We make the easy drive to the Teragram Ballroom for this SOLD OUT show in their hometown of Los Angeles.  This place is a black box built for sound, and boasts Robin Danar, of CBGB fame as sound man.  This is perhaps the most exciting show, being so high quality and so well-attended.  In addition, I get to share the “merch booth” with Gemma, another band mom, and she is all kinds of fun.  It is a truly joyous atmosphere in the lobby after their set and we love seeing old friends and making new ones.

The Merch Table at the Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles 10.9.19
 (Gemma & Shamera) 

Day 13, we are out by noon and on the road to San Diego and the Belly Up Tavern.  It’s a three-hour drive with no traffic at this time.  Having attended UCSD, northern San Diego is my old college stomping grounds and I’m happy we arrive early to check out some old favorites spots (Juanita's Taco Shop and Del Mar Shores).  My husband also lived here for a time, though we didn’t meet until later, so returning is fun for us both.  The Belly Up Tavern has changed over the years.  It used to be filled with pool tables but now is devoted to performance with the addition of different leveled seating areas, bars and stage lights.  This show is my last one on this leg of the tour and I’m sad to leave.

I think my favorite thing about this tour is the consistent, crazy cheering for the opening band (and the resultant crush at the merch booth).  This is rare and evidence of a great pairing of acts in the right cities at the right venues.  I love hearing how people of all ages react to this new music.  Many are Zooz fans, now also Thump fans.  Many are music lovers, drawn to the virtuoustic playing, others respond to the ideas behind songs and the band’s mythology, while others admire the projected slideshow experience.  There’s a lot to like.  One of my favorite questions in the merch booth: “Are they friends?”  The answer is a big YES.  I think it’s obvious to fans and makes the band even more relatable and likeable.  That and the fact that they all come out after their set and talk with the fans.  Beyond the performance, I think this is the #1 most important way to connect with fans.  Having a personal experience, even 60 seconds, deepens the connection, usually existing primarily on social media and streaming sites.  It is not unusual for fans to bring gifts after the show.  We see everything from handmade, personalized bracelets to voodoo dolls with Thumpsuits.  The fans give back a piece of what they get.  How perfect is that?  And, when my son turns to me and says, “I am so happy I did this,” it’s the perfect balm for that parental feeling of risk that consumes as you watch them try to win over new rooms night after night.  This career choice is only for the truly passionate and determined.
As with all things, there must be balance in order to sustain.  My goal here is to show both sides: the joy of creation/glory of performance and the other, pay-your-dues, less glamorous side of a music tour.  This is the reality of most businesses, which is what this is.  In closing I will say, touring is hard work but also surprisingly rewarding and so, so much fun.   Thank you, guys, for allowing me a seat in the Space Barn. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Michael Miller Interview Part 2 ~ That Mickle Magic

The Michael Miller Interview ~ Part 2 

 That Mickle Magic

This interview has been taken down for further edits.  Thank you and please check back soon.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Musician Acting in Film ~ Filming 'Glee'

A Musician Acting in Film 

Filming Glee at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, CA

Logan as 'sweater vest kid' ~ Paramount Pictures 1/24/15

My son recently had a novel experience, as a "musician acting in film," in the popular television show, Glee.  He was recruited through a friend, a fellow student at the USC Thornton School of Music, where they are studying Jazz.  The audition required the playing of a very simple tune, with a band.  He was hired because "he looked natural playing the double bass" and they liked his look, admired his shirt.  They were firm that he wear the same glasses he had worn during the audition.  This was managed by a casting director who is apparently the person in Los Angeles who does this kind of work, finding musicians to act in film.

Paramount Pictures is the last major film studio still headquartered in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles.  It is spread over 65 acres beyond the famous gate on Melrose Avenue.  Arriving on set the first of two full days of filming, Logan was informed by the casting director that although he was 10 minutes early, he was in fact late, and he "should have been 30 minutes early because it shows you respect me."  This was surprising.  Having made many, many call times over many years, to all different types of venues, we had never heard this.  For musicians, there is typically a very early call time used for sound check.  It is purposely very early to ensure that any issues that arise, considered inevitable, can be solved in time.  Being very early is not always welcomed, as there is usually stage preparation to complete before the arrival of performers.  There was another musician who was 20 minutes late (for the stated time) because he had to change a flat tire on the freeway.  He was told he would never be called again, though they still needed him that day.  The first call time was 9:00am [8:30am WCRT (west coast respect time)*] on a Saturday in January 2015; the shoot was completed in 8 hours.  

Paramount Pictures ~ Melrose Avenue Gate

The next call time was 6:30am [6:00am WCRT] on the following Monday.  After each person arrived, the first stop was wardrobe.  Inside, he was greeted by a friendly, emotive stylist, who gushed, hand on chest, when Logan put on the aforementioned glasses, "you....are....adorable!"  They were putting together two bands, a "nerdy band" and a "cool band."  Logan was recruited for the nerdy band; the glasses now made sense.  Looking at him thoughtfully, the stylist excitedly continued, "I can already tell, you're 'sweater vest kid'....yes, YES!"   [Apparently, there is always one.]  And, he was promptly fitted with a cardigan.  Usually, make-up is next, but he was spared this new experience, to his satisfaction.

The group of musicians were given an Elvis-themed trailer to use during down-time (union-defined & enforced one-hour breaks after every 6 hours of filming).  At this point, Craft Services arrived with a tray of Eggs Benedict, hash browns and other breakfast items.  Logan was sorry he'd eaten.  I'd heard about the luxurious craft services tables, the bane of actresses trying to stay at fighting weight, but this was more than expected.  At break-time, Tortilla soup was served with large bowls of fresh avocado, cilantro, sour cream...  Later, they were confused, as a second lunch, a full Thanksgiving-themed meal was also served: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetables, etc.  This is in addition to the always-available table of snacks and drinks.  He said it was all fresh and delicious, there was every kind of meal-replacement bar imaginable, and everyone was eating.  For all the camera crews, it is a very physical job.  Not to mention the kids acting in the series, who were singing, dancing and doing gymnastics the entire time.

The actual process of filming, however, was tedious.  Over the eight hours he was there, they filmed the sequence, a party in a high school gym set (Stage 12 at Paramount Studios), over and over, filming from every angle until the director was satisfied with each take.  This footage would ultimately comprise about 3 minutes of show time, when edited.  Ultimately, he realized that for the musicians, on such a day, there was substantial down-time to do homework, etc.  In this way, it became the perfect job: getting paid to play and allowed to work personally in between takes, with meals...and residual checks.

Before he was hired, the casting director had made him aware of many rules, all ending in "or you will be fired."  Like "you may not play your instrument [unless filming]"..."or you will be fired."  He was told an instrument would be provided and not to bring his own, though they did want him to bring his bass bow.  Seeing these instruments, they were obviously chosen for their look; many were classic instruments (iconic 1960's organs, Fender guitars and Marshall amps), some quite high-end and beautiful, looking like they had never been played.  Logan played a double bass and a Hoehner "Violin Bass" Guitar, made famous by Paul McCartney.  The performance scenes in Glee are carefully designed for visual impact, coordinating the music with sets, costumes and instruments too.

Next, he described the many tools of the trade, from an amazing camera, seemingly counterweighted on a gyro, that appeared to float in the air with the camera-operator, along pre-determined arcs, defined by the director, and guided with help from another operator.  There were all types of cranes and trucks for quickly moving different set components like stages and bleachers.  There were also the hair dryer-type machines, that caused the actors' hair to lift, appearing full and floating, operated by staff constantly-moving in sync with the performers, but out of the frame.  After each take, a make-up artist, designated for each actor, rushed up, freshening, perfecting.  The hair stylists, working around the make-up artists, were quickly reviving, jooging** up the style, a little wilted after exercise, finishing by applying copious amounts of hairspray.

Jane Lynch was on set on Monday.  Already, there was a buzz in the air.  After wardrobe, it was clear this day would be different, as they were all directed to make-up.  Indeed, on this day of filming, there would be close-ups.  It turned out that this day would be far preferable, as the band on set was joined only by Jane Lynch and another veteran comedienne, a well-known red-head, and very special guest star for one episode.  Carol Burnett would play Jane Lynch's mother on Glee's final Season 6, Episode 10.  The band watched the two professionals complete their scene at which point, Lynch's character calls the band on-stage to accompany her & her mother in a duet of  The Trolley Song (The song lyrics: "clang, clang, clang went the trolley...ding, ding, ding went the bell...zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings, for the moment I saw him I fell..." are from the 1944 film classic, Meet Me in St. Louis.)  Lynch was kind and talkative with the musicians.  After filming, Burnett graciously posed for pictures and talked to the performers.  At age 81, she looks & sounds amazing.  This day wrapped at noon, after 6 hours.

Carol Burnett & Jane Lynch in Glee, Season 6, Episode 10
(Logan Kane on double bass, far left)

Logan Kane, far left, on Glee set with special guest, Carol Burnett, 2/7/15

One of the interesting things about this experience is the fact that when you are booked, it is for certain days, and you should be available the entire day, which means 12 hours and possible overtime.  The call times are often not given until late the night before (we found out about the first 9:00am call-time [8:30am WCRT] at 10:40pm the previous night) and a "wrap" is called when the director has what he needs, as long as that takes.  It is not unusual for an actor to be notified of an audition within the hour.  In Los Angeles, things are happening, fast.  If you don't pick up the phone, you may miss the opportunity.  Musicians are paid and are subject to the same treatment as actors, meaning a specific hourly wage and a residual payment each time the episode is aired.

About talent, the music provided for the audition was simple sight-reading for these college music students.  On set, it was difficult to tell whether their performance was being recorded for airing or whether they were play[-act]ing along to a pre-recorded track.  It seems, after watching the finished episodes, some of both.  One time just before arriving, he was sent an audio track that had no bass line, and was asked to learn his part on the tune, so it was clear that they weren't always recording, or even matching the instrumentation to the audio track.  Though he was silent, his on-the-spot, bass line invention that suited the tune, was likely easy due to his 3 years in the SFJAZZ Jazz Combo, directed by the amazing Dann Zinn (an audition-only high-school ensemble focused on student-written charts).  I can't imagine this is a skill set that is sought, but one has to ask themselves what they would have done in such a situation.  The aforementioned classic "Trolley" tune with 2 vocalists and many close-up shots, seems to be a live recording.

Soon after, Logan was booked for another two days of filming.  Glee is in its last season and he was fortunate to be able to appear in the finale: Season 6, Episode 13.

* WCRT (West Coast Respect Time): please pardon this author-invented, sarcastic acronym

** Jooge: In the fashion world, this means detailing - rubbing the hair between fingers for texture, rubbing product into the roots for extra lift.


Acciardo, Kelli.  "Snip-tionary: A Dictionary of Hair Terms."  January 26, 2015 <>.

Kane, Shamera.  September 29, 2013.  May 19, 2015

"Paramount Pictures."  January 23, 2015.  January 26, 2015 <>.

"The Trolley Song."  March 13, 2015.  May 13, 2015

"SFJAZZ High School All-Stars."  May 19, 2015.  May 19, 2015

Saturday, September 27, 2014

BIRDLAND Jazzista Social Club ~ Reborn

BIRDLAND Jazzista Social Club ~ Reborn

Onstage: the charming neon sign with the blinking yellow bird

The Berkeley, California jazz club known as the Birdland Jazzista Social Club is a local legend.  Named for the unique and detailed bird houses which adorn its walls and are sold to fund the club, its true function has been to provide an after-hours music club where both students and masters are welcome to play, as jazz clubs historically have, into the early morning hours.  Though Birdland has famously functioned for years in its low-key, Berkeley home garage form, playing to sold-out crowds, the social club is expanding.  Having run afoul of various Berkeley business laws, the founder of Birdland, a former UC Berkeley lecturer on Asian American History, Michael Donato Parayno, hopes the recent move to Oakland will improve the offering.

The new sign outside the North Oakland site 
The new space at 4318 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, CA is about three blocks from the MacArthur BART Station and plans to offer live music two to four nights per week.  Entry cost will be a $10 donation.  Birdland also plans to offer "membership cards" for $40/year that offer priority admission to events, discounts on merchandise and higher-priced shows and special events as well as discounts at participating local businesses.  The club's farewell-to-Berkeley concert on April 30 and opening-in-Oakland soft launch on June 21, 2014, were played by two high-school jazz bands, all of whom had played at the previous venue many times before.  The headlining group was comprised of: Tim Lin, saxophone; Omree Gal-Oz, piano; Logan Kane, string bass; Edward Evans, trumpet; and Marcelo Perez, drums.  Though the soft launch refers in part to the space being in serious construction mode, the vibe was high and excited.  Birdland is well-known for being as accepting of students looking for places to play, as it is of more established bands and big names in jazz.  Mike not only hires them and pays them a portion of receipts, he encourages them and feeds them before the show.  There is always their famous BBQ chicken, vegies and palettes of water (the club is BYOB).  While they eat, he explains the legal and monetary difficulties of such an enterprise: cabaret licenses, food and beverage permits, etc.  It's a story of red-tape and courtroom battles.

Mike's dream is to form a musical community around a neighborhood, in this case, North Oakland, with services that appeal to concert-goers and benefit the locals.  The beginning phase of this "neighborhood music scene" that will "reinvent the entire neighborhood like Austin's music scene," includes six businesses along a five-block stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Way - Marcus Bookstore, MLK Cafe, Ray's Barbershop, The Fruit Basket, Gallagher's Liquors and Micro's Market - offering free music on Fridays and Saturdays from 9pm to midnight.  Taking advantage of these day-businesses after hours, the opening weekend included such diverse genres as blues, samba, bossa nova, West African, neo-Soul, Jazz and Cuban music.  Conversely, during the day, the 2700-square-foot Birdland building will be open as a retail space, selling Mike's one-of-a-kind birdhouses as well as offering dance and music classes.  He hopes to open the cafe component by Thanksgiving. 

Birdland's proximity to the MacArthur BART station is important; Mike has plans to include British Taxis, pedi-cabs and a Thai tuk-tuk that will be available for hire, to transport people from Birdland to BART or their vehicles (there is a spacious parking lot adjacent and ample street parking).

Mike's vision is about community-building.  Billed as the "Bay Area Arts & Music Project" (BAAMP), he says, "it can't just be about us," and hopes the neighborhood will become known as, "the Bay Area music district."  I attended two concerts in the series at the charming Marcus Bookstore, the oldest black-owned bookstore in the United States, with its striking exterior murals and beautiful, interior leaded-glass (created by the owner's brother and offered for sale).  Being in a bookstore late in the evening for an original music concert is inspiring and interesting, and allowed browsing between sets for my next read.  Blanche Richardson, co-owner of Marcus Bookstore, said of Birdland, "I think what they're doing is great.  It really instills a sense of community." 

Check it out, by clicking here: BIRDLAND WEBSITE  

***If you are interested in an insider's description of the original Birdland, read this interesting and info-rich post on Culture Spy Blog (of East Bay Express) by the eloquent and obviously, seriously cool,  Simma Lieberman.*** Below her post, is my own. ***
SCROLL DOWN, just below Bibliography -OR- click here ---> Simma Lieberman


Birdland Jazzista Social Club. September 27, 2014 <>.

Martersteck, Paula. "Birdland Jazzista Social Club Hopes to Establish an Oakland Music District." Culture Spy. April 18, 2014. September 27, 2014 <>.

***** Simma Lieberman post about Birdland on the Culture Spy Blog: *****

If you live in Berkeley, Ca and you haven’t been to the Birdland Jazzista Social Club, then you haven’t really experienced Berkeley.

A lot of people like to talk about diversity, community, and inclusion, but it’s just talk. They like the idea of diversity, of people from different cultures, backgrounds and interests converging, as part of their romantic ideal, but their actions and the people they have in their lives, don’t demonstrate what they say they believe. Some of these people have not rarely if ever been inside the homes of people different than themselves, nor have they ever invited any one different to share a meal, and have a meaningful conversation.

But Michael Parayno has not only shared meals and conversation with people from diverse backgrounds, he’s built a social club in his garage, where people who represent almost every, and any difference converge together on Friday, and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons to eat massive amounts of barbecue and listen to live jazz, blues and play dominoes, cards, checkers and chess on small tables set up on the sidewalk.

Before I became a member, I would pass by this house with weird looking old English cars, birdhouses, loud music, the smell of barbecue, and hundreds of people from every dimension of diversity going in and out. I was curious, and wanted to know how someone could have such big parties every weekend, and not invite me.

So one night, on my drive home, I passed his house; saw the garage door open, and Michael standing outside. I couldn’t stand it any longer, I had to know, so I pulled over, jumped out of my car, and said, “What the heck is gong on, and how do I get invited?”

Fourteen months ago, Michael (who was known for designing and building his world famous birdhouses) bought his first grill, and invited a few neighbors over to barbecue, and listen to jazz on the radio. Everyone had such a great time, they decided to do it again, and they invited a few more people, who had such a great time, that they had another barbecue. Not only did they invite more people they knew, but they started inviting anyone who happened to be walking up their street.

One of Michael’s friends from Malaysia, Morgan Lim, offered to cook Satay, and then they decided to have a “multi-culti,” grill with barbecue recipes from a myriad of cultures.

One Friday night, one of Michael’s neighbors brought his jazz trio, and everyone got to listen to live jazz instead of the radio. Naturally, the next step was to continue with more live jazz, and Michael decided to build a stage, get a professional sound system, and create a night club, with lights, and furnishings, where everyone could feel at home, and the Birdland Jazzista Social Club was formed.

Parayno’s Birdland Jazzista Social Club is a true “multi-culti,” community. Michael says, “we have people of all ages from embryos to people in their late 80.’s. This is a social club where gay, straight, Black, White, Asian, Latino, and people from every other culture can feel at home, including homeless folks.” “I want to bring back the idea and practice of people being a real community,” “We have people, food and music, from 8:00 PM-5:00 AM

It costs $20.00 to join, and then regular donation is $10.00 of which goes to the musicians.
“Actually, Michael said, “the $10.00 is only for the music, There is never a
charge for food and drink because food and drinks should not be monetized among friends in a social club .”

On a Friday night, the number of people who attend can easily reach 250, and on Saturday nights at least 150 show up to hear blues.

“I want people to associate jazz as party music again, and equate it to having a good time. Jazz is for the masses and all classes,” Parayno declares.

He told me, “this is a place where my young immigrant students learn how to interact and interface with people who have been in the US all of their lives instead of just hanging around with people of their own ethnic background. “

And in keeping with the ideas in my article, “How Jay-Z, Eminem, and Steve Jobs Can Bring Us to Salvation,” I believe that spending time at Birdland, sitting on one of the leather couches, or on a folding chair listening, conversing and grooving to the music, one minute with a homeless person and the next minute with a Silicon Valley CEO, can bring us to inclusion and community.

If you find yourself in the SF Bay Area, you can go to the website, where you can find the menu and music calendar. Birdland has musicians through November, The word is out and it’s gone viral, musicians who come out to San Francisco to play at the upscale venues, make it a point to also play at Birdland. Be prepared to be welcomed like an old friend and make some new ones.
6 likes, 0 dislikes  

Posted by Simma Lieberman on 04/21/2014 at 11:00 AM

As a parent of a jazz student who has benefitted immensely from Mike's wide vision and love of community, I can say that Birdland has become an extraordinary & essential stop along the Bay Area Jazz Education Continuum. High School students, Jazzbos in training, bitten by the jazz bug, compete for precious few spots in the conglomerate All-Star Bands at SFJAZZ, the Studio Bands at the California Jazz Conservatory (formerly, the Jazzschool, in the Berkeley theater district) and elsewhere, still need a place to play and a place to listen, talk and grow beyond the group.  Many of these players also write music and it is indispensable to them to be able to showcase their work in this under-21 environment.  These kids are the NEXT GENERATION!  Mike is their adoptive cool-father-figure and his one-of-a-kind bird houses, their metaphorical homes!
Posted by Shamera Kane on 09/27/2014 at 4:01 PM

Thursday, July 3, 2014

5 Qs for Patrick Hogan ~ "Mr. Bebop"

5 Qs for Patrick Hogan ~ "Mr. Bebop"

Patrick Hogan joined SFJAZZ for the 2013-2014 year, easily winning a spot in the SFJAZZ All-Star Jazz Orchestra (under director Paul Contos) and the SFJAZZ All-Star Combo (under director Dann Zinn) his first time auditioning.  Very rare.  As is Patrick.  He knows what he likes and quickly developed a persona in these groups; hearing him referred to as "Mr. Bebop" (a term coined by Paul Contos) testifies to his penchant for straight-ahead jazz compositions.  His own compositions run this way, but his improvisations are also replete with quotes from songs by The Beatles.  Writing about him brings to mind an article I recently scanned by Dr. Phil McGraw where he states, it's important in life to "pick a horse and ride it to the finish line."  If this is a metaphorical way of saying, "know your strengths" and "strive for focus," I couldn't have picked a better line (unless it was either music or baseball-related, another subject on which he is quite versed).  I have heard long, detail-laden discussions with Patrick and SFJAZZ Combo director Dann Zinn about the sport.  Zinn supports and recommends that musicians watch sports; I believe it has to do with noticing non-verbal communication in groups requiring split-second decisions and perfect physical execution.

Patrick is supremely confident, states his beliefs and backs them up like someone with much more experience, and is very comfortable with who he is.  You will see this in his answers, which he elected to speak instead of write.  Here is our discussion.



Primary Instrument:       PIANO

Music you play:            
     Classical:         No
     Jazz:                  Yes
     Pop:                   No, except the Beatles
     other:                No

Music you listen to:            
     Classical:        No
     Jazz:                 Yes
     Pop:                  No
     other:               Soundtracks

Private Lessons?  Yes

Year You Will Graduate HS: 2014

5 Qs for Patrick:

1. How do you approach improvisation?

"I start with melody, that's always very important to me.  My favorite soloists, their solos are like new tunes.  Each chorus they play, you can write it down, and play it.  It would sound a lot like a Bebop head, like Anthropology or something, where it's not quite like a Tin Pan Alley standard, but they're very melodic and very memorable.  There are passages or phrases that are almost like they're written by hand with care.  So, I'm always tying to play melodically.  It's also important to be cohesive, so you're not just throwing random stuff out there or random licks out there and not putting anything together.  You gotta build it, start small and end it big, which I actually do.  What I tend to do is actually a formulaic thing, I actually do it too much, where I'll go to block chords at the end.  I have guys like Dann Zinn getting on me for that [mimes Dann Zinn saying, ' gotta change it up'].  I try to work in the Blues now and then; I guess [listening to] Horace Silver helps with that.  And dissonance.  Because the basic vocabulary I'm working with is Bop and Hard Bop: guys like Red Garland, Bird, Bud Powell.  I try to work in elements of the Blues: Thelonious, a little bit of Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal, you know the spare thing that Ahmad did.  So, very rooted in Hard Bop, try to keep it rooted, but interesting.  I think that sums it up pretty nice."     

2. What makes you play the way you play? (Influences? Where do you find inspiration? Group vs. solo?)

 "My mom and dad, especially my dad, have always listened to jazz so I've been hearing it since before I was born.  So, I've been absorbing it since I was very young.  I wasn't consciously thinking about it.  I'm told that at age 2, I wanted to hear Barry Harris.  I think I absorbed it whether I knew it or not, because as soon as I started playing, and I started pretty late [about 10 years old], that's immediately what I wanted to play.  It was an immediate thing:  I want to play jazz.  Now I'm interested in this stuff, now I'm getting out his Thelonious Monk records and playing them, and absorbing them, and hearing the licks those guys are playing, and trying to copy them.  So, I think my mom and dad shaped it a lot, based on what they were listening to."

"Influences:  I mentioned Red and Thelonious, Horace Silver, there's a lot...Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans, Vince Guaraldi, Bud.  As far as horn players, well, Charlie Parker influences everyone.  Because he, Dizzy and Thelonious developed the Bebop vocabulary.  A lot of it can be attributed to them."

"Inspiration:  I practice by myself because I don't have the opportunity to play with others much where I live.  I think listening has been my inspiration.  Sometimes I'll be inspired by something non-musical, maybe a particular memory or nostalgia, or something like that.  I can get fairly nostalgic about places I've been.  Mostly, I'd say inspiration comes from the music itself."

"I'm always down to play solo piano, but group playing is what I really thirst for and what I really need to advance and get better.  It can be frustrating, because now I have all these wonderful opportunities with SFJAZZ and I get gigs, but it can still be frustrating not living right next to guys you can play with all the time, like a school environment.  It's kind of interesting being home-schooled.  On one hand, I can practice more, but on the other hand, living where I live and not going to a public school, I don't have a built-in way to play with guys that way.  So, it has it's pros and cons.  I'm cool with either one, but as far as improvement, I need combo playing and group playing and group interaction."       

3. When you're frustrated & want to quit, what makes you come back to your instrument?

"First of all, I am religious, I believe in God and I go to church every week.  The thing that gets me going is that I feel that God has been kind enough to give me a gift.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying 'I'm the greatest.'  But, he's allowed me to do what I'm doing and I won't squander that.  It would be foolish, it would be throwing something away.  Also, sometimes I get frustrated, I'm tired of hearing myself.  But, I can't stay away.  I'm constantly thinking about something related to it.  Literally constantly.  If there's a new composition I'm working on, or even just a recording of someone else I'm listening to, it's stuck in my head.  I don't think I could get it out if I wanted to.  It's such a part of my life now.  I'm obsessed. 

"My practice habits are not great.  And often, if I'm having a day where I'm just not feeling it, I'll stop for a day.  But, that's just for the day.  I rarely go a day where I consciously decide, 'I really don't want to do anything.'  If I have a day where I don't play at all, it's usually because it's not my choice, because I'm busy.  I play every day, but sometimes for whatever reason, I have to get up, but I'm still thinking about music.  I'm thinking about it all the time."  When asked how much he does practice daily, he replies, "A lot of people ask me that and I always have trouble answering because I don't know.  It varies.  Sometimes it's extremely short, about 30 minutes, probably because I'm not playing very well that day.  In spurts, I can play for hours.  It all depends.  Usually, I'd say it comes to, 1 to 2 hours, but not all in one sitting."

4. How does pressure ('good' or 'bad') affect your performance?

"I definitely still feel pressure.  Even though I've got lots of experience, I've done a lot of gigs at this point, I still get nervous.  Especially for the bigger things.  You know, butterflies and 'I gotta play this part perfectly.'  In a big band, if I've been working on something, I really think 'don't screw this up!'   Sometimes I think the bigger the gig, the better I sound to myself.  I think I can rise to the pressure.  I still get nervous but I also think I feel more satisfied, I'm more confident for the bigger gigs that I'll sound okay, that I'll rise to it."  I agree wholeheartedly, he is a crowd pleaser, this pianist. 

I ask if after listening to performance recordings, if his assessment of the record equals what he felt about the performance at the time.  He says that sometimes there is a disparity, but usually, "if I thought it sounded decent, it'll sound like that on the record.  That seems to be the case more often than not.  And, I do think it's beneficial to listen to recordings of yourself.  I think it's good to transcribe yourself."  Great idea.

As far as so-called bad pressure, Patrick says, "99% of the time, if somebody says I didn't sound good, I agree with them and I know what they're talking about.  I think that helps too because I'll be [mad] at myself  and I want to make sure it sounds good this time.  It doesn't adversely affect me.  Well....that's not quite true.  Sometimes, it won't be somebody telling me something.  Sometimes I don't like how I sound, so then I think, 'now, I really gotta nail it.'  But, whether it's me or someone else, I think it helps."  When asked if he is his own worst critic, he replies, "Yea, I think most musicians are." 

5. Parent support directly affects musical achievement.  How does parent support look in your family?  How does it affect your ability to succeed? 

"My parents are extremely supportive, to the point where they go out of their way to help me along.  And, we're talking about more than just getting me to gigs and stuff like that.  I think it can be indicative of something, when parents go out of their way, tying themselves in knots to get you where you need to be, to get you opportunities in music.  I think it's indicative of something."  I believe he is saying that all that support may be indicative of his student success.  "As far as something higher than that, they just love it.  I think that if they have any sort of worry, it is that jazz isn't very lucrative.  It is true for most people that the music business is not very lucrative.  Obviously there are lots of people making lots of money, but for most, they won't be raking it in.  That's just out of concern, wanting to see me do well.  But they are 100% down with it.  In fact, they push me to do more.   To make sure my audition stuff is done and taking care of my responsibilities related to it.  They help out and they make me more business-like, in a good way.  I think that when parents are doing that, I think that's a pretty good sign that they are 100% down with it."

Patrick is quick to point out that this in no way makes them the dreaded "stage parents," whom he has encountered and calls "unfortunate."  He clarifies by saying, "when they push me to do stuff, it's really when I'm dragging, like stuff related to colleges and auditions.  I'm not being pushed into it.  I'm either doing it because I want to do it or because I know it's important and I know it's going to help.  To put it bluntly, they help me get off my ass and do it.  They never tell me to do it; their pushing is good pushing." 

With a big smile on his face, he adds, "My Dad just loves it!  He just loves being able to hear the music."  This is true.  I tell Patrick that his father, who digitally records and shares every performance, is fairly glowing the whole time.  The Hogans and I have a mutual admiration society, in the way that we both get joy from watching each other's sons perform.  Imagine how it must feel to be a jazz lover your whole life.  Imagine then, your child also develops that love and pursues an instrument.   That would be quite lovely, just as is, hearing the music in the home, sharing an interest.  But imagine then, that you come to the point of watching your child win an audition and then play in one of the highest level jazz ensembles for students of his age, in a world-class city, San Francisco.  It makes my heart sing.

Part of parent support is putting your child with suitable mentors like the aforementioned directors at SFJAZZ.  Though it wasn’t part of our discussion questions, I wanted to add his comments about those directors.  The SFJAZZ All-Star Combo is unique for performing student-written charts in a small band format; a group of 6 as opposed to the 25-man Big Band puts the players square in the spotlight, with nowhere to hide.  Combo director, Dann Zinn,* has a reputation for being brutally honest and bringing his groups to unprecedented heights; when you get a compliment from Zinn, you know it's sincere.  Many students are not comfortable with this dynamic.  But, of Zinn, Patrick says, “I welcome the pressure and his bark is worse than his bite.  He has a heart of gold!”  Of  SJAZZ All-Star Jazz Orchestra director, Paul Contos,** who discovered Patrick in the Monterey area and encouraged him to audition for SFJAZZ, he considers at length and simply says, “…words fail.”  Well said, Patrick.

*   Dann Zinn Interview, see:

** Paul Contos Interview, see:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Jesse Foster Interview ~ Father of Jazz in the Basement

Jesse Foster, father of Jazz in the Basement

After seeing the amazing, modern-day jazz salon, called Jazz in the Basement, created by Michele and Jesse Foster in their gorgeous San Francisco home, I had to interview him.  You can read the article about their salon by clicking here Jazz in the Basement or by going to:  In addition to hosting these monthly salons, Jesse is an avid educator, composer and performer.  His perspective as a vocalist is new for The Lead Sheet SF and Jesse has a lot to say.

Educator Q's

1.  How do you find a balance between imposing your own ideas over the students' creativity?

"In the case of an intermediate student, who is learning to improvise, what I usually say to the student is 'you may already have this information, but here it is in a different shape and form.'   It might sound clichĂ© to say, 'the more I teach the more I learn,' but it's true, and the proof is in the pudding.  So, sometimes you get a student of that nature in a rebellious mode who will say, 'what am I going to get out of playing these exercises?'  My friend, a guitarist and educator, Chris Pimentel, says to his student, 'these are the basic energy and atoms of performance, so when you go out and play, they manifest themselves.'  The brain goes to work, it's heard it before and it juxtaposes what it learned in education.  That's when implementation comes in.  That's how they start doing musical quotes of a song they've heard before, because there's a chord they're playing with the same series of notes."

"I have them make up their own exercise.  I say, 'what's your address?'  Say it's 7125.  Find the root of 7125, and create me a chord progression from those four chords.  The 7 is harmony, the 2 is Dorian, and the 5 is dominant, you see it every day, it's a product of life.  You hear it all the time, train stations, alarms, etc. (when I say doorbell, he corrects me, saying those are really major 3rds)." 

"These ideas pass on the academia that bothers people. I play little games with people.  I usually start on the thirds and have people sing (and he sings....3 notes for each word):    Ma-j-or, Mi-n-or, Aug-men-ted, Di-min-ished...  I want to get these intervals into people's heads and singing is the best way.  I have them replay and cycle those triads, sounds like Wagner, the classical composer, and they get comfortable [without knowing it is a difficult classical exercise].  The idea is that a melody is part of a broken-up chord."  He goes on to explain how to respond when a student asks how to determine which key to use when writing a song.  I have heard songwriters talk about determining a chord first because they have such a feeling for the way each key feels.  He says, "I ask them to determine a small portion of the melody and try to determine the bass.  The bass is the tonic, the tonic and the root are the same thing and you go from there.  If you're ever in doubt, the root will help you out."  I find his ideas so interesting, starting on something random, an address and then creating this unique pattern.  I try not to group or channel these interviews into structured ideas.  I want each person to say what they feel and I'm always surprised when unique ideas come up.  In jazz, I shouldn't be, and Jesse agrees.
As he's playing these exercises, he varies the rhythm, the texture and dynamics and starts to tell me about the original viewpoint on rhythm, that it was originally viewed as "just African music" and given a racially-offensive term to describe the type.  Eventually, it was realized that rhythm is melody.  Everything has a pitch; even drums are tuned (not just the orchestral timpani, but all drums.  Even drumsets in a rock setting are tuned, or at least they should be).  Piano is a percussion instrument because the sound is created by striking a key, which engages a hammer, which hits strings of different lengths.  True.  In this case, each key-strike is a note that has an individual frequency (pitch) and an amplitude (volume).  You can chart that single key-strike event as a singular sine wave (that is one form of those sine waves and cosine waves from high school math).
Jesse says he composes from an emotional place and if the key is too high, he transposes.
He likes E flat, B flat (horn keys), and F.  He especially likes, 6 - 4, called the "Amen Inversion."

2.  Practice + Parent Support = Musical Achievement
A recent publication, Guitar Zero, was written by a neurologist about his 2-year journey learning to play the guitar.  The author claims that the single-most important quality, after practice, that indicated musical success, is parent support.  Assuming parent support includes lessons or school classes,  do you see this statement as accurate?

"If the kid isn't interested, it isn't going to work.  Without desire, it won't happen.  'Stage Parents' can be more trouble than help.  You can appreciate being proud of your kids and their accomplishments, need space.  And, like those kids that played at Jazz in the Basement (the 2014 SFJAZZ All-Star Combo under director Dann Zinn), they're young and that adrenaline, it's so intense.  After they play a concert like that, they need to find a way to cool down.  You're bouncing off the walls, you're feisty, wired..."  We then have a short private conversation about that idea and how it has manifested in our respective homes.  He believes the mental state associated with performance has a touch of mania; just a touch, for those well-adjusted performers.  But, the ego has two sides and you need to foster that 'good' side with relaxation techniques: meditation and deep breathing or whatever works.  Jesse says he used to read a lot of Carl Jung and he sees the other side, the 'dark side' of ego as what Jung called the 'trickster.'  The dark side is in every person, it's how you negotiate A to B.  He sums it up, "Common Sense says: Discipline and Repetition are the two best teachers in the world.  People confuse it with rigidity, but it's not.  It's about organization and boundaries.  Life is a constant dance."  The truth of it!  Pure talent is strangely just one component of a successful musician.  All the time people spend wishing for talent they should spend practicing and developing life skills because those are the characteristics of success in any field - confidence, self-promotion, logging time in the perpetual shed (euphemism for the state of constant practice), etc.

3.  What is your approach to teaching student a process as intangible and personal as improvisation?

"I like to do the following exercise that gives a lot of freedom; nowadays they call it Free-stylin'.  Take a C minor 7 chord, add a melody (he sings a 5-note phrase).  Then I say, 'he needs a partner, add a bass line' (he sings a 2-note rhythmic bar).   Now, I have two things (he sings the melody, directly followed by the bass line) and I improvise (he expands on the melody).  What's the mood here?  Minor.  Pensive.  You can hear "Moondance" and "Summertime," find that pitch (he plays the C minor chord, while singing the first bars of each song and you can hear the notes match up).  This is where the ear training comes in, recognizing songs and moods.   Now sing it from the 4 (he plays the chord with F as the root and brings the melody up to that note), now up to the 5 (singing one note higher), now you want to be fancy?  Come down chromatic (he plays the 3 successive, descending chromatic notes).  From here, now, be free, have fun (he keeps riffing on the melody)."  I break to ask if the student is actually singing in these exercises and he says they do.  "If they're scared, I say ok, let's play something scary.  Here's a diminished D chord, for you, now inverted (the diminished sounds sad, minor; transitioning to the inverted gives a feeling of tension, perhaps fear)." 

"I've had really good luck with putting words with a scale....sing 'this is the major scale, this is the minor scale, this is the chromatic scale...' "  He sings each of these with their respective notes, sort of 3-3-5-3-2-1.  It is proven that students do well with memorization of words when sung to music, the idea behind School House Rock.  It seems the idea is to make the student comfortable with the creation of singing patterns and feeling the changes and the feelings produced, recognizing those changes in other tunes.  It is common to see jazz musicians sing while they are improvising.  My son and I were listening to pianist, Keith Jarrett and you can clearly hear him singing on the recording.  I often hear my son sing while practicing and mention this.  Jesse replies by saying that Coltrane did this, listened to how singers phrased their melodies; similarly some singers may phrase like a horn.  "A lot of times, you have a tenor sax and a male tenor voice and you can't tell one from the other."
4.  What qualities have you seen in students that seem to predict future success in music? 
Jesse begins by mentioning a former student, Sean Whitehorn, who had such a voice, "when he sings the walls just rumble, he has this incredible resonance.  I always say, 'you got it!  You're the chosen one!'  The next step would be to have a good relationship with business.  Musicians tend to not have a good relationship with business.  You're in the shed [musicians' euphemism for the practice room] all day working and you need some support, someone who believes in what you do, who can book gigs and go through the trenches with you and get you to the next place.  Nowadays you can find benefactors but you need to find someone who really believes in what you do."

I ask if he was going to back someone, what qualities he would look for and he responds with "self-confidence, know who you are, no apologies for what you do.  You need to follow your heart and have conviction.  An example: when Marvin Gaye was making the 'What's Going On' album and Barry Gordy said what he was doing wasn't going to work.  Marvin said he was going to stick with it and it's one of the best albums ever made.  Most importantly, you have to make a commitment and stick with it, because if you're not, when disappointment pops up, you'll be even more disappointed.  Be honest with yourself and realize that unfortunately, the dark side of music is that creative musicians aren't really appreciated.  It should blow right by you.  Follow your support systems and get some good skill sets: be able to read people, know the difference between someone who is genuine and someone who will shyster you."

On the subject of self-promotion, he adds, "These days it's difficult.  When you go on the internet, it's exhausting.  There are all these people saying, 'come see me' and it's made it so I don't even do flyers anymore.  I always say go because you want to hear the music.  I tell my students, when you're going to hear another student, leave your book at home.  You're going to hear them.  Pardon the generalization, but singers have the reputation of being prima donnas.   That's the dark side of that.  I call it 'ego'n out.'  The humble side of the ego just wants to get up every day and make music; you have to have enough confidence to say, I practice every day and I'm proud of who I am.  Artists can be insecure.  They can have a fragile psyche in that way."  When I venture a suggestion that it's a contradiction in terms because performers have to be confident and secure to take the stage, he agrees.  The two-sided ego idea comes up again.
The conversation turns to fronting a band and addressing an audience.  Being good at one does not guarantee being good at the other.  Jesse tells the story of an excellent student who comes for lessons for just that thing.  I can remember more than a few times watching the student bands discussing who had to do the announcements, not a popular job.  He talks about breaking the ice by asking questions of the audience and proposing audience participation (sing-alongs, side-vs-side volume contest...).  He also likes to change small portions of lyrics to certain classics that bring them firmly into the present.  I can definitely imagine the delight that would produce, gaining their attention, and increasing the engagement of the listeners.  Jesse says that the audience, who has chosen to spend their time with you, is interested to hear the inspiration for compositions and anecdotes about well-known songs or artists.  I think that definitely increases the understanding of a tune and enhances the overall experience, making it memorable.  

~~~ Jesse Foster ~~~
may be seen every 2nd and 4th Saturday
6:00 - 9:00pm
Café Soliel
in San Francisco